SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A big announcement took place at Union Station on Friday related to federal transportation funds.

A funding announcement was held on Friday at Union Station in Springfield with Governor Maura Healey and Congressman Richard Neal in attendance, alongside MassDOT and Amtrak officials.

The group announced $108 million in federal funding to improve passenger and freight rails in Massachusetts. The money comes from the USDOT Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program (CRISI).

That program is meant to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of inter-city passenger and freight rails. MassDOT and Amtrak applied for this funding last year, specifically to make improvements in order to provide regular passenger service between Springfield and Boston.

The funds will go towards the $135M corridor infrastructure projects that will facilitate two new Amtrak Inland Route daily round trips as a first phase of corridor improvements, according to a news release from Congressman Neals’s office. These additional daily trips will help to enhance connections between Boston, Worcester, and Springfield, and to communities beyond the Commonwealth in Connecticut, as well as New York City.

The funding will also help in supporting infrastructure improvements to increase train speeds and additional corridor capacity along the 53-mile section of the CSX Boston and Albany (B&A) Line between Worcester and Springfield. Through the extension of the existing passing siding capacity and the other track improvements, the Maximum Authorized Speed (MAS) along the 44-mile single-track segment will go to 80 mph, which will help to minimize train delays.

“Over the last ten years, the Commonwealth has witnessed a remarkable transformation in both freight and passenger rail, particularly with the redevelopment of Springfield’s Union Station. It is fair to say that Springfield has reestablished itself as the crossroads of New England, and with today’s announcement, we are just one step closer to making East-West Rail a reality,” said Congressman Neal in a news release sent from his office. “With much of the language in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law having been drafted in the Ways and Means Committee, I was in regular communication with the FRA to ensure my support for this application was known. The facts are simple: improving and expanding passenger rail service will have a tremendous impact on regional economies throughout Massachusetts. That is why Governor Healey has voiced her support for East-West Rail, and that is why we will continue to invest in a project whose framework has the potential to serve as a model for expanding passenger rail service across the country.”

“I am thrilled we were able to secure this critical funding for central and western Massachusetts, which will lay the foundation for West-East Rail. From day one, we said our administration was going to compete for an unprecedented level of federal funding opportunities, and I’m proud to say we are delivering on that promise,” said Governor Healey. “We thank the Biden-Harris Administration for their continued historic investments in infrastructure and are grateful for the strong partnership of Chairman Neal and our entire federal delegation in promoting public transit and advancing priorities for economic competitiveness.”

“We are grateful to our congressional delegation for helping us secure this CRISI funding, and thank U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and the Federal Railroad Administration for approving our application,” said Acting Secretary Tibbits-Nutt.  “Working with our elected leaders, municipal officials, Amtrak, CSX, and other partners we will be launching capital projects on this corridor which will have long-term positive economic impacts on the region, which will allow for additional corridor capacity, and which will decrease travel times between station destinations.”

MassDOT Rail and Transit Administrator Meredith Slesinger added, “We are pleased to have received this funding from the CRISI program which will result in new Amtrak service connecting Boston, Springfield, and New Haven.  In addition to the new service, the funded improvements will benefit the operation of the existing Amtrak Lake Shore Limited service connecting Boston, Springfield, Pittsfield, and Albany and set the foundation for future east-west passenger and freight service growth.  Growing rail in the Commonwealth is an essential element of our strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide more transportation options to better connect communities across the state.”

“At Amtrak, we’ve delivering a new era of passenger rail as we invest in our existing assets and plan for future growth,” said Amtrak Executive Vice President for Strategy and Planning Dennis Newman. “Today’s grant announcement will restore service on the Inland Route and enable two additional round trips per day between Boston and Springfield, delivering on the IIJA’s vision for expanded and improved passenger rail.”

“This is a big deal. Passenger rail is going to play an enormous role in the future of our Commonwealth, and this funding will bring us one step closer to making East-West rail a reality,” said Congressman James P. McGovern, House Rules Committee Chairman in a news release from Governor Healey’s office. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are moving full steam ahead toward a future where every corner of our commonwealth and country is plugged into the global economy and every resident of Massachusetts has unprecedented access to reliable, efficient, and interconnected rail service that can take them where they want to go.” 

“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a generational investment in passenger rail,” said Director of Federal Funds and Infrastructure Quentin Palfrey. “Massachusetts is ready to put this funding to work connecting our communities across the region while creating good paying jobs, strengthening access to economic opportunity, and promoting public transit. Thank you to the Biden-Harris Administration, Secretary Buttigieg, and the Federal Rail Administration for making this possible.” 

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